One area of life that is in need of recovery for a lot of people right now, in this first week after the holidays, is primary relationship recovery. I wrote a blog post called How I Stopped Hating My Husband and You Can Too in 2013. In it I discussed how I learned how to stop keeping score regarding who did what around the house and how to communicate about how I was feeling about the division of labor. That blog post has consistently been the biggest source of traffic to my blog.
But let me tell you, while that traffic remains steady through the year, it spikes around the holidays. Why? Because there’s typically one partner who is taking on the bulk of the work that the holidays require. And in heterosexual relationships, that partner is typically the woman.
You’re reading the transcript of an episode of the How to Be a Better Person podcast. If you’d rather listen, click the play button below.
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I was inspired to include relationship recovery in this week of episodes on the theme of recovery after a client shared a Huffington Post article with me about how the holiday magic that everyone craves this time of year is primarily created by women.
Here’s a little excerpt from the article:
“Women already perform the bulk of emotional labor ― the psychological phenomenon of unpaid, often unnoticed labor that goes into keeping everyone around you comfortable and happy. But during the holidays, this work ramps up. There are more mental lists to juggle, more commitments on the calendar to keep track of, more tasks to delegate. There is more pressure to make things magical for those around you. It takes a lot of unseen and under appreciated effort to keep everything humming along smoothly.”
That article is called Holiday Magic Is Made By Women, and It’s Killing Us, if you want to look it up.
And guess where that extra, unnoticed work frequently leaves you?
Hating your partner. For not noticing, and therefore not appreciating, and, likely, not helping. It’s a recipe for resentment, which is a completely understandable reaction. Busting your butt and not being appreciated for it or assisted in it can make you feel very lonely. I hear the words “I feel like it’s all on me” a lot when I talk to women who find me via that blog post. I just want you to know that you are not alone in this. If you are feeling like you are up to here with your partner, you are in good company.
I have absolutely been there too. And although I have completely shifted the way I think about and approach doing things around the house, I still have flares of resentment toward my spouse. Creating more openness and collaboration in your relationship isn’t one and done, or set it and forget it, unfortunately. I have been through the cycle multiple times in the nearly 20 years my spouse and I have been together. But I do always follow the same steps.
Anytime you’re noticing your resentment rising in your relationship here’s a 3-step process to process and communicate how you’re feeling so that you can show up differently
These three steps helps you not fall in to the nagging trap and shift your energy, which then shifts the dynamic between the two of you so that you can get back to a place of connection and appreciation.
Of course, I’m streamlining these steps to keep things within the parameters of a short podcast episode. But I’m actually working on a live class experience where we can talk about this stuff together in real time. Keep an ear for more info about that a little later in January. I’m ALMOST ready to talk about it in a more official way.
Until then, the three steps to take are:
Do something to take care of yourself and bring yourself back to some kind of baseline. Take a walk in the woods. Take a bath. Call a friend. Work out. Do some yoga. Do anything that gets you out of the stress response and that you enjoy and that is doable soon. Don’t wait until next month, because you deserve to feel better now. And people learn how to treat you by how you treat yourself. So show yourself some appreciation and TLC.
Then have a conversation with your partner where you make it your goal to simply relate how you’re feeling and asking questions that are designed to get you into a dialogue. And that’s key–you’re aiming for dialogue, which is two people talking back and forth to each other, and not a monologue. I understand that your partner may not be super communicative, or even all that verbal. But I also know that it’s likely that you head into a conversation with an agenda to speak your piece and that doesn’t leave a lot of room for back and forth and also can trigger defensiveness which shuts down a chance for true connection.
Likely this will need to be a series of conversations as you can’t expect an entrenched problem to be resolved in one go. The goal in these conversations is to share how you feel about the topic, ask your partner how they feel about the topic, and then collaborate your way to a solution. I have a whole episode dedicated to HOW to do this, exactly, it’s episode 120–and it’s called Relate, Not Manipulate, so do a quick search in my episode archives to find it.
And for number 3:
You want to think about how you want to approach household tasks going forward. Yes, you want your partner to help out more, and to appreciate more, but if you are secretly–or not so secretly–keeping score, judging them for how much they do or do not do, critiquing how they go about things, well, it’s like an energetic wall that’s hard to penetrate and repellant.
Again, this is a big topic that I haven’t yet been able to condense into a podcast episode but that I will cover in depth in the live class when it’s ready, but you want to approach doing any kind of emotional labor from a higher level of energy–either because you’re feeling generous, or just because it’s there and needs doing it and you know you’ll feel good about it afterward, or you may even decide that you don’t want to do it because you don’t enjoy it–and that you’ll feel OK about it not being done.
I can tell you that when you shift your energy about a heated topic, that shift is contagious
And suddenly something you’ve been fighting about can become a non-issue, or at least a much less fraught issue. Of course, it’s a little more involved than I’m making it sound right here, but basically, if you can find a way to be more at peace with your efforts, your partner will have less of a reason to resist doing them. And you do that by seeking to be of service to the household, or because you can see it’s way to take care of yourself, or, maybe you stop spending so much time on them because you accept that getting these things done is really not mission critical in the grand scheme of things. When you can approach the chores with a higher energy level, you are essentially being the change you wish to see, and the most powerful way we influence others is through our example.
Those three steps again:
- Relate, not manipulate
- Shift your energy
And that’s how you shift the dynamic and invite your partner into understanding your point of view and collaborating on some new approaches. Remember, if you want different results, you have to do something different.
Thanks for listening, and I wish you a restful relationship recovery.